Speakout – December 2008
“Back in those days, that was the look – aluminum. It didn’t match the truck,”
says antique truck collector Jerry Howard of Fairborn, Ohio, of the sleeper on his 1949 Peterbilt 350. He bought El Turbo in 2006, restored it and won First in Antique Working Truck at the 2006 Pride & Polish. The truck’s boxy sleeper was custom-made for Gene Smith, known as “the West Coast Legend.” The truck, which Smith ran on the California coast from 1970 to 1998, was featured on the October 1976 cover of Overdrive.I was a trainer for Werner Enterprises for nearly three years and an owner-operator for the fleet for just under a year when I was involved in a terrible accident.
Werner helped me through hell
On May 29, 2006, I was on Maine’s Kennebec River when my boat struck a submerged log and threw me into the water. The boat ran me over twice as it traveled uncontrolled in a circle, and I received deep cuts across my arms, chest, fingers and face.
I awoke 26 days later at Maine Medical Center. A week after regaining consciousness, I called Werner to find out the status of my 2003 Freightliner Century, which was financed though the fleet. They immediately suspended the $1,600-per-month truck payments and made sure my insurance premium was paid each month. I was in the hospital for five more weeks, learning how to walk. My badly mangled right arm was amputated above the elbow, and I had limited use of my left hand.
When I was released from the hospital, Werner gave me time to find a driver for my truck. They continued to pay my insurance premium from my escrow maintenance account and allowed me to pull money from escrow to pay pressing bills. When I couldn’t find a qualified driver, they made arrangements for me to turn my truck in with no recovery fee.
They also started me on 18 months of COBRA insurance from the truck’s recovery date, not the accident date, and gave me the remaining balance of my escrow account.
Werner has told me that when I re-establish my CDL, I have a guaranteed job with them. I now can see the light at the end of the tunnel.
Even before the accident, Werner repeatedly proved to me that driver retention is important. I truly am grateful to everyone who rooted for me to pull through.
Want better treatment? Act right
I’m responding to Frank Gonzales’ letter in the August WriteOn ["No one appreciates what truckers do for others"] about truckers being perceived as scumbags.
My grandfather and father drove, back when truck drivers were respected, and were courteous and friendly to other motorists. I rode with them when I was a child, and they took the time to help someone stranded on the road. People in those days were glad to see a truck driver lend a hand.
But times have changed. Most of today’s American truck drivers don’t speak English and park their truck across five dock doors, blocking everything. They dump trash on the pavement and throw bottles of urine in parking lots. They use profane language on the CB and are rude to other truck drivers.
If my grandfather and father still were alive, they would be ashamed of today’s trucker, as my truck-driving brother and I are today. Not all drivers act unprofessionally, but a majority do.
If truckers don’t want to be labeled as scumbags, then they should stop acting like scumbags. The actions of a few affect us all.